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Interview: Humboldt State to become latest California polytechnic campus

Adbar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Humboldt State University is undergoing a big change — students, staff and faculty can say “goodbye” to Humboldt State and say “hello” to Cal Poly Humboldt.

The campus will join a growing list of polytechnic state universities along with Pomona and San Luis Obispo as the third entry.

The change isn’t just in its name — by becoming a polytechnic university, the designation means that the school focuses on programs emphasizing STEM fields.

Cal Poly Humboldt Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jenn Capps said the change in name should help prospective students find them.

“Folks are having a little bit of a difficult time finding us and recognizing us as [a polytechnic]. So through our system office and a recognition that we had some capacity to grow, we partnered with our system office to create this plan to be able to shift to this,” Capps said on Insight.

Capps broke down what changes current and prospective students can expect and how it’ll all incorporate into the resilience and future of the region.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length

Interview Highlights

On the challenges the university has faced due to declining enrollment

I think one of the biggest challenges, frankly, has been that recognition, or lack of recognition, of the excellence here at this institution.

I think we had a bit of a murky identity, and so this designation really clarifies for the prospective students what experience that they can have here, and the degree that they can seek.

So what’s really neat about this designation is it allows us, we’ve done some really intentional work to align with where the workforce gaps exist in the state of California, to really align with what students are expressing that they want, in the degrees that they want, in things like cybersecurity and engineering and technology and data science.

And then it has the added benefit of stimulating the North Coast economy, being the largest employer in the area.

On what changes students can soon expect to see in the school’s curriculum

So, we are launching a jaw-dropping eight new bachelor’s programs starting in 2023, one new master’s program and three new certificate programs in these specific areas of applied science, science, technology and engineering.

Students can enroll now in 2022. So that’s my pitch … come to Cal Poly Humboldt. They can enroll now and start taking their general education courses and be ready to go in 2023.

… We are doubling down on our investment in liberal arts, humanities and social sciences. We have a commitment to being a comprehensive university and a comprehensive polytechnic, and we can’t serve the North Coast, the state of California, or our students if we are to de-invest in liberal arts, humanities and social sciences.

We need to produce graduates that are creative, who can communicate, who can work together as teams who appreciate the arts, who can create art, and so we are very, very committed to that.

On how the university wants to commit to introducing Indigenous education to the curriculum

So we aspire to be a different kind of polytechnic. And so in recognition of the excellence of the other two polytechnics in the system, we wanted to be a little bit different.

Part of that being different is incorporating Indigenous wisdom into our curriculum. So recognizing we will launch an applied fire science and management degree, we’ll launch a master’s in engineering and environmental practice.

So it’s really taking that Indigenous wisdom that has known and has been in existence for many, many years and intentionally incorporating that into the curriculum alongside of traditional scientific inquiry so that our students are equipped with multiple ways of knowing to be able to best be … scientists in service of society and solving community-based problems.

Megan Manata
Vicki Gonzalez is a Murrow and Emmy award-winning journalist with nearly 15 years of experience as a reporter, news anchor and producer.
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